The X-Files returned to our screens in a blaze of glory in 2016 after 14 years off air. Fans had pretty much given up any hope for a continuation of the series following the poor performance of the second big screen outing The X-Files: I Want to Believe in 2008. The show’s 10th season was a nostalgia trip for long-time fans of the show but it also proved very divisive. The six-episode revival was a mixture of mythology and standalone episodes, and the ratings ensured that the show was greenlit for an 11th season.
With an expanded episode count, 10 episodes rather than 6, The X-Files returned to our screens back in January but it seems the audience just wasn’t there for it. In the US season 10 averaged 13.6 million viewers per episode but by the end of season 11, the average had fallen by 10 million to 3.74 million per episode. As a long-time fans of the series, it’s painful to admit that I can understand why the show lost so much of its audience and sadly season 11 didn’t do enough to get back on track.
The X-Files: The Complete Season 11, like season 10, is once again book-ended by mythology episodes penned by series creator Chris Carter. Opening episode My Struggle III does some audacious rewriting of what happened in season 10 leaving fans very frustrated. The episode expects you to believe that the season 10 finale was a deliberate misdirect but I’m not buying it, especially as no one knew if the show was coming back for another season when the finale was filmed.
While mythology has always been at the heart of The X-Files, it’s time the show dropped it or started a new arc. Fans had enough trouble keeping up with the mythology in the first 9 seasons and Carter’s repeated tendency to rewrite history means these episodes make little, if any sense, now. Season 11 takes some time to get going. Second episode This is another disappointment that introduces another conspiracy surrounding new character Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) but it doesn’t really amount to much.
Season 11 hits a high with episode 3 Plus One, which is Carter’s best contribution to the show in a long time. Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigate a case involving doppelgangers and it feels like a nod back to the show’s spectacular heyday. The highlight of the entire season is episode 4, The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, written by fan-favourite Darin Morgan. He always delivers a slightly off-beat episode and this isn’t just the best episode of the season, it’s one of the best episodes the show has ever made. It explores the Mandela Effect, a false memory phenomenon, as Mulder and Scully are faced with a colleague they don’t recall ever meeting.
The rest of season 11 is very uneven. It hits the mark with creature-of-the-week episode Ghouli, which does tie into the overall mythology in a satisfying way, and the inventive Rm9sbG93ZXJz is an interesting exploration of modern technology that doesn’t quite pay off as it should. The season hits a low on episode 9, Nothing Lasts Forever, about an organ harvesting vampire-like cult. It’s a disappointing penultimate episode slightly worsened by the unsatisfactory season finale (probably now series finale). Carter clearly had high hopes of carrying the show into a 12th season but it looks as if the network and lead star Gillian Anderson have other ideas. Anderson publicly announced that she wouldn’t continue with the show and has been vocal about how she feels about the latest season (and let’s just say she wasn’t very happy).
The Blu-ray edition of Season 11 is packed with over 2-hours of never-before-seen extra content. Alongside audio commentaries on selected episode there are several in-depth featurettes that take you through the world of The X-Files. The cast and crew explain the series’ mythology on Solve for X: Constructing Season 11 and there’s a wonderful look back over the show’s history with Implanted Memories: 25 Years of The X-Files. There’s also a spotlight on Scully, a Conversation on the Fox Lot featuring the cast and crew, and a Gag Reel.
Despite being a very uneven, and ultimately unsatisfying season, The X-Files: The Complete Season 11 has enough to keep fans of the show happy. Seeing various familiar faces is welcome, as is having a Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) centric episode, but overall the season doesn’t hang that well together. As it’s looking increasingly likely that Season 11 is the final season of the show, and we’ll never get answers to that jaw-dropping cliff-hanger in the finale, fans are going to be left very frustrated. Of course we’ve been told before that the show won’t come back and it has, so we’re not writing it off yet, but as someone who’ve been there from the start, I hope they get the chance to round things out with a stellar proper final season that focuses on the show’s strengths.
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis Director: Various Writer: Various Certificate: 15 Duration: 437 mins Released by: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Release date: 23rd July 2018